Belleville (French: "Belle ville" meaning "Beautiful city / town") is a township in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 35,926, reflecting a decline of 2 (0.0%) from the 35,928 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 1,715 (+5.0%) from the 34,213 counted in the 1990 Census.
Originally known as "Second River" or "Washington", the inhabitants renamed the settlement "Belleville" in 1797. Belleville was originally incorporated as a township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 8, 1839, from portions of Bloomfield. Portions of the township were taken to create Woodside Township (March 24, 1869, now defunct) and Franklin Township (February 18, 1874, now known as Nutley). The independent municipality of Belleville city was created within the township on March 27, 1874, and was dissolved on February 22, 1876. On November 16, 1910, Belleville was reincorporated as a town, based on the results of a referendum held eight days earlier.
In 1870, Belleville became the first city on the East Coast of the United States with its own Chinatown. While the country experienced strong anti-Chinese sentiment, the town welcomed a group of Chinese workers from the West Coast who had been involved in construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. This group of people eventually formed the basis for Chinatowns in Newark and New York City.
In 1981, the town was one of seven Essex County municipalities to pass a referendum to become a township, joining four municipalities that had already made the change, of what would ultimately be more than a dozen Essex County municipalities to reclassify themselves as townships in order take advantage of federal revenue sharing policies that allocated townships a greater share of government aid to municipalities on a per capita basis.
Frankie Valli and the band The Four Seasons formed in Belleville.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 3.37 square miles (8.71 km2), including 3.30 square miles (8.54 km2) of land and 0.07 square miles (0.18 km2) of water (2.05%).
Silver Lake (2010 total population of 4,243) is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) defined by the United States Census Bureau as of the 2010 Census that is split between Belleville (with 3,769 of the CDP's residents) and Bloomfield (474 of the total).
Other unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the township include Belwood, Big Tree and Soho.
The Second River forms much of the border between Belleville and Newark as it runs through Branch Brook Park.
The township of Belleville has given itself the nickname the Cherry Blossom Capital of America, with an annual display that is larger than the famed Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., site of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The township borders the municipalities of Bloomfield, Newark and Nutley in Essex County; Lyndhurst and North Arlington in Bergen County; and Kearny in Hudson County.
The 2010 United States Census counted 35,926 people, 13,395 households, and 9,001 families in the township. The population density was 10,755.7 inhabitants per square mile (4,152.8/km2).